6 Oct 2017

MIT repays money following investigation

1:19 pm on 6 October 2017

An inquiry into a tertiary provider has prompted a complaint to the police and repayment of nearly $126,000 in government subsidies.

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Photo: Supplied

Staff at EnterpriseMIT, a company owned by Manukau Institute of Technology that was shut down last year, taught students content they already knew and may have altered key dates and signatures on documents.

The company taught the National Certificate in Maritime (Commercial Inshore Vessel Operations), National Certificate in Employment Skills, and Certificate in Finfish Culture, which was mostly taken by pet store employees.

The inquiry for the Tertiary Education Commission, carried out by Deloitte, found most students on the finfish course between 2013 and 2016 already knew much of the course content.

"The investigation found that students who already worked in the industry had enrolled in the course without being assessed for levels of prior learning. The investigation found that on average students had 40 percent prior knowledge of course content," the inquiry report said.

The failure to allow for students' prior knowledge prompted the repayment of subsidies to the commission by MIT.

The report also recommended the institute go to police because of evidence that documents had been altered.

"A number of signatures on assessments and other documentation were found to be altered. Correction fluid/tape was used to alter some signatures, names and dates. Individual students advised they did not recognise signatures purporting to be their own," the report said.

Exterior of the Manukau Institute of Technology

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The inquiry found some students' enrolments were dated months later than the official start date of their course, and some courses featured fewer teaching hours than was required.

Four students told the inquiry they had not successfully completed their courses, but the company had recorded them as successful completions.

Twelve students enrolled in the finfish and employment courses had no record of attempting any assessments and some appeared to have not attended more than the first 10 percent of the course, which was the cut-off for claiming government subsidies, the report said.

MIT said in a statement it had notified the police, but understood they would not be taking the matter any further.

It said MIT set up EnterpriseMIT in 2011 as a standalone company and reviewed it in 2016 after the Tertiary Education Commission identified potential problems.

"MIT's Council immediately initiated its own review which concluded that a number of practices at EnterpriseMIT were unacceptable. In July 2016 the council of MIT replaced the board of EnterpriseMIT," the institute said in a statement.

It shut down EnterpriseMIT in December last year.

The chief executive of the Tertiary Education Commission, Tim Fowler, said the investigation was complex.

"We appreciate the Manukau Institute of Technology's co-operation throughout this investigation and we note that the issue arose through a former subsidiary, which it has now closed," Mr Fowler said.